BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM
Eighteen year old Jess (Parminder Nagra) is football mad (her hero is David Beckham), but her Indian parents (Anupam Kher) and (Shaheen Khan) want her to find a nice Indian boy and settle down, like her sister Pinky (Archie Panjabi), who is about to be married. Jess starts to play in the local girls football team with Jules (Keira Knightley) whose father Mike (Frank Harper) is supportive, but mother Paula (Juliet Stevenson) is more interested in buying pretty underwear for her. The girls are both rather interested in Joe their football coach (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who has his own problems.
Review by Louise Keller:
I went with trepidation, never a football fan. Coloured by its vibrant Indian culture mix, Bend It Like Beckham is a gloriously funny, observant and delightful film about passion. The fact that the passion is about football is almost incidental, although I must say that in the context of the story which is delightfully told, I surprised myself as to how enthusiastic I actually felt about the football sequences. (Indeed, I got so enthused I watched the World Cup and am now something of a convert to soccer.) With resonances from such films as American Desi, which also clearly depicts the cultural clashes with Indian lifestyle and customs, we understand the position that Jess finds herself in. While she dreams of football and plasters photographs of her hero David Beckham all over her wall, her traditional sari and turban-clad family, canít understand why she isnít just be satisfied to learn how to cook chapattis and dhal, and become a good Indian wife. A little like Billy Elliot, who sneaks away to ballet classes, Jessís football training is her secret. As fate would have it, the long-awaited day of the football finals falls on the same day as her sister Pinkyís wedding. When the scenes of the thrilling match are shown in carefully edited juxtaposition with the ornate Indian wedding taking place simultaneously, the impact is an explosion of emotions. Itís a wonderful sequence that in essence exemplifies the heart of the film. Music is used to great effect, fusing the cultures. Bend It Like Beckham takes pleasure in bending the rules Ė from girls playing football to the taboo of inter-racial relationships. Itís a colourful, upbeat and uplifting story canvassing dreams: it is impossible not to be captivated. Just like Fever Pitch and The Cup infected us with their emotional oomph about sport, this is a film that gets you involved with its characters so that we really care for them. Itís a marvellous cast with outstanding performances by Parminder Nagra, who combines sensitivity with rebellion. Keira Knightley (only 16 years old) is fascinating to watch, like a leggy colt at the starting gate. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is appealing as the coach for whose affections the girls vie, and Juliet Stevenson is a real scene stealer as Julesí mum. I love the scene where she gets her husband to teach her about football at the lunch table, using sea-salt, mustard and teriyaki sauce. It is extraordinary to conceive that this is the first English-language film for Anupam Kher, who has starred in over 270 Bollywood films. Cry a little, laugh a lot Ė and Bend It Like Beckham!
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Well blow me down with a feather, I like it. I went along in a fog of vague apprehension, since I find movies that are set around sport suspect from the start. But like the best sport films, this isnít a sport film. Thereís enough drama in a World Cup match to make that a 90 minute sport film, thank you, so letís keep movies cinematic. Bend it Like Beckham is actually about cultural and gender borders that our heroine tries to overcome. Combining a top script and top notch performances, Bend it Like Beckham makes us care for its characters and understand their motivations, recognise their shortcomings and smile at their triumphs. In many ways, the film is a social documentary of contemporary London, but universal in its subject matter: cultural conflict within migrant families, where old traditions and new generations froth in turbulence as they try to find a balance. In this case, there is also a gender issue: girls playing football in a Western family would raise eyebrows in some quarters, but a Sikh girl!? The film retains some of the serious aspects of its subject matter but avoids confronting the issues head on. We are nonetheless aware that itís a serious topic for those involved, and can laugh as onlookers. Filmed with assurance and cast with inspiration, Bend it Like Beckham is a goal kicking movie with enough entertainment value to fill a stadium.
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GURINDER CHADHA INTERVIEW
BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM (M)
CAST: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Archie Panjabi, Shaheen Khan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kulvinder Ghir, Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson
PRODUCER: Deepak Nayar, Gurinder Chadha
DIRECTOR: Gurinder Chadha
SCRIPT: Paul Mayeda Berges, Guljit Bindra, Gurinder Chadha
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jong Lin
EDITOR: Justin Krish
MUSIC: Craig Pruess
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ralph Holes
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 4, 2002